Management

Management & Senior Advisors

John Rose
John Rose, Ph.D.

Co-Founder and Chairman of Scientific Advisory Board

Michael Robek
Michael Robek, Ph.D.

Co-Founder
Member of Scientific Advisory Board

Bijan Almassian
Bijan Almassian, Ph.D.

Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO

Dr. Almassian is a Senior Pharmaceutical Executive with diverse experience in leading Biotechnology R&D Operations, Project and Alliance Management in startup and mid-size life science companies with an excellent track record of bringing new products through different phases of Research and Development. Dr. Almassian is currently the president and CEO of CaroGen Corporation, a leader in development of immunotherapy vaccines and also Founder and Chairman of Aria Neurosciences (www.Arianeurosciences.com), an Alzheimer drug development company.

Prior to CaroGen and Aria, he served as President and CEO of ExSAR Corp. from 2005 to 2010. Over his tenure at ExSAR, he built a pipeline of small drug molecules for potential treatment of genetic diseases and neurological disorders. Prior to joining ExSAR, Dr. Almassian was the Chief Operating Officer at Panacea Pharmaceuticals, Inc. focused on discovery and development of drugs for treatment of cancer and neurological disorders. Before joining Panacea, he held several senior executive positions at Vion Pharmaceuticals (VION), a spin off from Yale University. As Vice President of Drug Development, he built the drug development operations, which led to the IND filing and development of five drugs and biologics through all phases of development. Before Vion, he was held both scientific and management positions at Genelabs and Genzyme.

Dr. Almassian holds a MS and PhD from Northeastern University and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, respectively and was a NIH postdoctoral fellow at Boston University Medical School.

Valerian Nakaar
Valerian Nakaar, Ph.D.

Co-Founder and Vice President
Research & Development

Dr. Nakaar has twenty years of experience in research and development of human vaccines in academic, small biotech and pharmaceutical environments. At VaxInnate where he joined the company at its founding in 2002, Dr. Nakaar was heavily involved in the company’s start-up. Under his leadership, the molecular biology group delivered multiple vaccine candidates including novel influenza vaccines currently undergoing clinical evaluation. He also has had extensive involvement with other viral, bacterial and parasitic vaccines. At Vion, he developed protein and peptide-based cancer therapies. He has been an author of many peer-reviewed publications, and inventor on US patents related to development and production of vaccines for influenza and other infectious diseases. Dr. Nakaar has served for nine years as a faculty member in the Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine.

Dr. Nakaar received his B.Sc. (Hons.) in Biological Sciences from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Molecular Biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, and carried out his postdoctoral fellowship in the Section of Infectious Diseases, Yale University School of Medicine.

Joseph Rininger
Joseph Rininger, Ph.D.

Vice President
Product Development and Project Management

Dr. Rininger possesses over 18 years of experience in basic biomedical research and biopharmaceutical product development. Most recently, he was the program manager for the advanced development and commercialization of a recombinant hermagglutinin-based subunit vaccine for influenza (Flublok®) under a $147M government contract. This encompassed planning and leading a cross-functional team in the execution of tasks encompassing all areas of recombinant vaccine development (process development, formulation development and stability, pre-clinical toxicology quality control, process and facility validation, manufacturing process transfer, regulatory affairs and clinical development.

Furthermore, he has experience and solid skills in international business development and business strategy from serving as Director, Business Development at Protein Sciences Corporation. In this role he and established and led the process development, manufacturing and regulatory (CMC) aspects for four recombinant programs to enter clinical trials.

Stephen Mason
Stephen Mason, Ph.D.

Executive Director
Virology & HBV Program Lead

Dr. Mason has been involved in drug discovery research for the past 18 years. Since 2015, he has been a consultant in various capacities for small biotechs and potential start-up companies. From 2010 to 2015, he was Director, Discovery Virology at Bristol-Myers Squibb, leading research efforts toward remission/eradication of HIV-1 and HBV. Much of the focus of this work was on immune-modulatory mechanisms including PD-1/PD-L1. Under his guidance, anti-PD-L1 antibodies were tested in advanced animal disease models for both HIV-1 and HBV as well as in human clinical trials for HIV-1.

From 1998-2010, Dr. Mason was at Boehringer-Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd., where he led several drug discovery teams to find new antiretrovirals against HIV-1 targets including capsid and gag, integrase, RT, entry, vif and others. He also initiated research efforts toward HIV-1 remission/eradication at BI prior to moving to BMS. Early in his tenure at BI, he was involved in the discovery of novel inhibitors against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) RNA-dependent RNA polymerase and HIV-1 integrase inhibitors..

Timur Yarovinsky
Timur Yarovinsky, MD, Ph.D.

Director of Immunology

Dr. Yarovinsky has more than 20 years of research experience studying immune responses to viral and bacterial infections. Prior to joining CaroGen in 2015, he conducted independent and collaborative studies as research faculty in the Department of Immunobiology and Yale Cardiovascular Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine investigating host responses to staphylococcal infections and post-transcriptional mechanisms regulating gene expression in immune cells.

His interests in vaccine development stem from the research experience at the University of Iowa, where he studied how adenoviral vectors and respiratory syncytial virus sensitize the host to bacterial toxins. He received his postdoctoral training in molecular biology at the University of Iowa and earned his M.D./Ph.D. in allergy and immunology at Russian State Medical University. His research results are reported in more than 35 peer-reviewed publications.

John Rose
John Rose, Ph.D.

Co-Founder and Chairman

Dr. Rose is Professor of Pathology, and Director, Program in Virology and Vaccine Development at Yale University School of Medicine. He was also Co-director, Yale Graduate Program in Microbiology, Director, Yale Medical School HIV research facility, and Director of Graduate Studies in Experimental Pathology. Prior to coming to Yale, he served as Associate Professor at the Salk Institute. Dr. Rose earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University under Dr. Charles Yanofsky and carried out his postdoctoral studies at M.I.T. under, Drs. Harvey Lodish and David Baltimore, three of the most distinguished scientists in the field of Biology. He is the author of close to two hundred scientific articles and has served as editor and member of the editorial board of several scientific journals.

Michael Robek
Michael Robek, Ph.D.

Co-Founder, Member of Scientific Advisory Board

Dr. Robek is an Associate Professor at Albany Medical College and former Associate Professor at the Yale University School of Medicine, where he was a member of the Molecular Virology Program of the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center, and a member of the Yale Liver Center. He has over twenty years of experience in virology and immunology research. After receiving his Ph.D. degree in Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis from Washington University in St. Louis, he carried out his postdoctoral research at The Scripps Research Institute, where he studied the immune response to hepatitis B virus (HBV). Dr. Robek has a broad background in virology, cytokines and vaccines. Over the past ten years, Dr. Robek’s research has been aimed at understanding how virus-host interactions might be therapeutically manipulated in new ways to control chronic virus infection, with an emphasis on HBV. The discoveries made by his lab have not only provided basic new insight into HBV replication and pathogenesis, but have also identified new potential targets for therapy. Dr. Robek is widely-recognized as an international authority on hepatitis viruses. He is author and co-author of over 30 scientific publications.

Steven J. Geary
Steven J. Geary, Ph.D.

Member of Scientific Advisory Board

Dr. Geary received his Ph.D. from The University of Connecticut in 1980 and was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. He is a Professor and the Department Head of Pathobiology & Veterinary Science. He was a 2008-2009 Jefferson Science Fellow, serving at the U. S. Department of State in the Arms Control Bureau, Office of Biological Weapons Affairs. Over the years he has received funding for his research from the NIH, USDA, NSF, DHS, BSF, DTRA, and corporate sponsors.

Bijan Almassian
Bijan Almassian, Ph.D.

Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO

Dr. Almassian is a Senior Pharmaceutical Executive with diverse experience in leading Biotechnology R&D Operations, Project and Alliance Management in startup and mid-size life science companies with an excellent track record of bringing new products through different phases of Research and Development. Dr. Almassian is currently the president and CEO of CaroGen Corporation, a leader in development of immunotherapy vaccines and also Founder and Chairman of Aria Neurosciences (www.Arianeurosciences.com), an Alzheimer drug development company.

Prior to CaroGen and Aria, he served as President and CEO of ExSAR Corp. from 2005 to 2010. Over his tenure at ExSAR, he built a pipeline of small drug molecules for potential treatment of genetic diseases and neurological disorders. Prior to joining ExSAR, Dr. Almassian was the Chief Operating Officer at Panacea Pharmaceuticals, Inc. focused on discovery and development of drugs for treatment of cancer and neurological disorders. Before joining Panacea, he held several senior executive positions at Vion Pharmaceuticals (VION), a spin off from Yale University. As Vice President of Drug Development, he built the drug development operations, which led to the IND filing and development of five drugs and biologics through all phases of development. Before Vion, he was held both scientific and management positions at Genelabs and Genzyme.

Dr. Almassian holds a MS and PhD from Northeastern University and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, respectively and was a NIH postdoctoral fellow at Boston University Medical School.

Valerian Nakaar
Valerian Nakaar, Ph.D.

Co-Founder and Vice President
Research & Development

Dr. Nakaar has twenty years of experience in research and development of human vaccines in academic, small biotech and pharmaceutical environments. At VaxInnate where he joined the company at its founding in 2002, Dr. Nakaar was heavily involved in the company’s start-up. Under his leadership, the molecular biology group delivered multiple vaccine candidates including novel influenza vaccines currently undergoing clinical evaluation. He also has had extensive involvement with other viral, bacterial and parasitic vaccines. At Vion, he developed protein and peptide-based cancer therapies. He has been an author of many peer-reviewed publications, and inventor on US patents related to development and production of vaccines for influenza and other infectious diseases. Dr. Nakaar has served for nine years as a faculty member in the Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine.

Dr. Nakaar received his B.Sc. (Hons.) in Biological Sciences from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Molecular Biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, and carried out his postdoctoral fellowship in the Section of Infectious Diseases, Yale University School of Medicine.

Mr. Fengyou Lu
Mr. Fengyou Lu

Mr. Fengyou (Frank) Lu is a pharmaceutical leader with significant experience in medical product marketing, planning, new product launch, market management, marketing team management, and marketing agent network building in China for over 20 years.

Currently, Mr. Lu is the Chairman, President & CEO of Shandong Gerpang Healthcare Biotechnology Group Co., Ltd (http://www.gerpanghealthcare.com) a pharmaceutical conglomerate in Shandong, China. Mr Lu is also President of GP Fortune Investment LLC and Chairman of SOTA Biomedical Investment Inc., in Toronto, Canada. He also served as CEO of MeiDaKang Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd; General Manager of Linuo Kelong Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd; General Manager of Quangang Biological Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd; and Regional Manager/Chief of Sales of Health Vision HK Ltd. In recent years, Mr. Lu has invested in medical technology companies, including in North America and has established multi-level partnerships with academia, including McGill University, University of Toronto, and MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, one of the world's largest urban innovation hubs. Mr. Lu has been appointed Visiting Professor of the Department of Pharmacology in Shandong Wanje Medical School, Jinan, PR China. He has published 20 scientific papers in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, HBV-related diseases, stem cell therapy, genetic and reproductive systems.

Mr. Lu holds a Master of Pharmacology and a Bachelor of Pharmacology degrees from the School of Pharmacy, Shandong University.

Susan Froshauer
Susan Froshauer, Ph.D.

Dr. Froshauer is President and CEO of CURE. She is an experienced scientist, mentor, entrepreneur and investor with skill at connecting academic expertise and technology with the commercial sector. Prior to joining CURE, she was Director of the Technology Exchange Portal at the University of Connecticut’s Office of Economic Development. In this role Susan assisted Connecticut-based entrepreneurs and organizations with initiatives that train students, create jobs and contribute to economic development. Until 2010, Susan served as President and CEO of Rib-X Pharmaceuticals, which she co-founded in New Haven in 2000. Under her leadership, Rib-X raised more than $160 million in private equity, bridge financing and government grants and built a robust pipeline of antibiotics to treat serious hospital infections. Prior to Rib-X, Susan served as a member of Pfizer’s Strategic Alliance Group where she was key to the creation of a $200 million investment portfolio that transformed the Pfizer global research and development strategy, helping the company identify new resources for drug discovery.

Susan received a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Harvard University and a B. A. from Connecticut College. She performed post-doctoral research at Yale Medical School in the Department of Cell Biology as a Jane Coffin Child’s Fellow.

Frank Marco
Frank Marco

Frank Marco advises emerging growth companies in capital formation, mergers and acquisitions, public offerings, joint ventures, strategic alliances, licensing, research and development, corporate governance and related matters. He regularly counsels institutional clients on corporate transactions such as mergers and acquisition, spin-offs and corporate ventures.

Frank has over 40 years of experience in corporate, finance and securities law. His experience includes six years in the General Counsel's office of General Electric Company, where he was also General Counsel to General Electric Venture Capital Corporation. Frank is now Special Counsel to Wiggin and Dana LLP, and a member of SECTTECH (a part of “CTNext”), which provides advisory services and mentorship for life science and other related technology companies in CT. In honoring Frank with its "Distinguished Service Award," Connecticut Innovations, Inc. described him as "a driving force in the growth of high technology in Connecticut." Frank is a director of several for-profit corporations, and has a long history in working with technology and venture capital oriented trade associations. Frank regularly addresses business groups regarding venture capital finance and other matters relating to the growth and development of emerging companies.

Frank is a graduate of St. Lawrence University (1969), and was awarded his J.D. cum laude from Fordham Law School (1972), where he was an editor of the Fordham Law Review.

Jo Viney
Jo Viney, Ph.D.

Dr. Viney is an entrepreneurial scientist and experienced biotech executive with extensive knowledge in autoimmune and inflammatory disease area. A self-described “drug-hunter”, she has successfully advanced a number of small molecule and biologics programs into the clinic. According to Jo, “I was impressed by cutting-edge science developed by world class scientists at Yale University, and by the extensive expertise of its management team.” Previously, Jo worked at Biogen in Cambridge, MA where she began as Vice President, Immunology Research and was responsible for building and advancing the company’s immunology portfolio before moving on to become Senior Vice President, Drug Discovery and a member of the senior R&D leadership team. Prior to Biogen, Jo worked at Genentech, Immunex and Amgen with increasing scope of drug discovery responsibilities.

Jo received her PhD in Immunology from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, University of London in the U.K.

Harry H. Penner
Harry H. Penner, JD, LLM

Mr. Penner, a serial entrepreneur, is a Founder of Affinimark Technologies, Inc., Marinus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (MRNS: Nasdaq), Rib-X Pharmaceuticals (now Melinta Therapeutics, Inc.), Omax Health, Inc., RxGen, Inc., MAK Scientific, LLC, New Haven Pharmaceuticals, Inc., NeuroCyte Therapeutics, Inc., and QCDx, Inc. Mr. Penner was President, Chief Executive Officer, and Vice Chairman of Neurogen Corporation (a publicly traded bioscience compa-ny) from 1993 to 2001. From 1985 to 1993 Penner was an Executive Vice President of No-vo Nordisk A/S (NVO: NYSE), serving from 1985 to 1988 as the company's Executive Vice President and General Counsel in Denmark, and serving from 1988 to 1993 as Executive Vice President for North America and President of Novo Nordisk North America.

He has served as BioScience Advisor to the Governor and the State of Connecticut, as Chair of the Connecticut Board of Governors of Higher Education, Chair of the Connecticut Tech-nology Council, and as Co-Chair of CURE (now BioCT). Mr. Penner currently serves on the board of directors for Celldex Therapeutics (CLDX: Nasdaq) and chairs the board of Affin-imark Technologies. He also serves as a member of SECT Tech, an economic development endeavor sponsored by Connecticut Innovations.

Mr. Penner holds a B.A. from the Univer-sity of Virginia, a J.D. from Fordham University, an L.L.M. in International Law from New York University, and certificates from Stanford University’s GSB executive management programs.